Retired Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, former US commander in Iraq, gave the Democratic Party’s weekly Saturday radio address Nov. 24, calling Bush’s Iraq adventure a failure—while emphasizing he was not representing the party. Said Sanchez: “That failure continues today. At its base is the mistaken belief, despite years of evidence to the contrary, that victory can be achieved through the application of military power alone.” The former commander is backing congressional Democrats who want $50 billion in additional war funding linked to the goal of US withdrawal by the end of next year. That legislation was blocked by Senate Republicans who want $70 billion for the war without conditions. Democrats voted down that measure, and no additional funds were approved before Congress left for its Thanksgiving break. (VOA, Nov. 24)
The tilt to the pragmatists underway in Washington is making for some unsavory bedfellows. Kudos to Democracy Now for reminding us of what an unlikely anti-war spokesman Sanchez is. Host Amy Goodman spoke Nov. 26 to Tara McKelvey, editor at the American Prospect and author of Monstering: Inside America’s Policy of Secret Interrogations and Torture in the Terror War. Asked to comment on Sanchez’s role in the Abu Ghraib scandal, McKelvey said:
Well, one of the things that he did was he spoke a lot with General Geoffrey Miller, who had come over from Guantanamo in the fall of 2003, and they talked about the types of interrogations that would take place at Abu Ghraib. And at that point, Miller had decided that Abu Ghraib would be the central intelligence collection place in Iraq, and it was tremendous pressure on these officers, as well as the entire military, to get what was known as “actionable intelligence” from detainees who were held in Iraq, because there were so many attacks on American troops. And it was in September of 2003 that Sanchez issued a memo that outlined certain guidelines for interrogations. And these included many of the things that had been used at Guantanamo, like sleep deprivation or stress positions.
Meanwhile, on Nov. 25 two blasts in separate areas of Baghdad killed at least 10 people. A car bomb near Iraq’s Health Ministry complex in central Baghdad’s Bab al-Muadham commercial district killed nine and wounded 31. A roadside bomb aimed at an Iraqi army convoy in northeastern Baghdad’s Waziriya district killed one civilian and wounded eight others, including six Iraqi soldiers. (CNN, Nov. 25) Three US soldiers were also killed in a suicide attack in Baquba, Diyala province. (Reuters, Nov. 18)
See our last posts on Iraq, the politics of withdrawal and the torture scandal.